Pakistan has a chequered history of military dictatorship and democracy, with the former occupying a much larger share. However, I must enjoin to my readers the significance of the elections that have taken place this year. For the first time in history, the long suffering democracy of Pakistan has powerfully retaliated through these elections and succeeded to considerably weakening, if not completely obliterating the incumbent despot, Pervez Musharraf. As one looks at the results, one feels the warmth of satisfaction that these were indeed bona fide elections and that the people have delivered the much awaited blow with finesse.
The PPP, the PML (N) and the PML (Q) received 89 , 66 and 42 seats respectively, in a 272 seat strong National Assembly. The performance of the PPP was a surprise; indeed many analysts had predicted a landslide for the PPP owing to Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. The results show that tribe loyalty remains a decisive factor. Sindh remains the PPP (or rather the Bhutto) stronghold and Punjab is still PML (N)’s bastion. The PML (Q), supported by Musharraf has suffered a crushing defeat. The implications of course, are quite obvious, for this was a bi-conditional; the elections being an antecedent and the implications, its consequent. One can now afford to say that Musharraf ceases to be a poltical inevitabilty. He himself has realised that he is a mere poltical mortal.
This is also a major setback to Goliath (I mean Mr. Bush, of course) and his policies of supporting the man who, in their opinion, has been indispensable to their fight against terrorism. Musharraf’s sycophants had been hailing him as a messiah bringing economic growth and modernism, who would lift Pakistan from its thralldom. The disillusionment of the people of Pakistan has manifested itself in a humiliating defeat for the pro- Musharraf parties. Musharraf had clearly attempted to make the people focus on the economic development during his regime, this attempt proved abortive since the people remembered only too well the false promises and ruthlessness of that regime.
However, a closer look at the results shows that to think that Pakistan will have a smooth democratic regime would be fatuous optimism. The Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League (N) have emerged as the clear winners and as of February 21,they have agreed to form a coalition government. A scrutiny of Pakistan’s electoral history puts this show of solidarity under considerable doubt.
Firstly, none of the parties have received a landslide majority they were hoping for. Clearly, Musharraf has been defeated and has conceded to it, but as one political analyst has said, the army has always remained in approbation. The extent to which army can successfully control the Pakistan politics can best be seen from the 1970 election, where Mujhibur Rehman, despite getting a landslide majority, was imprisoned, and Zulfikar Bhutto, with the army’s backing, was installed as Prime Minister . The crux being, elections- fair or otherwise- do not mean an exclusion of the army from politics.
Musharraf still remains the President of Pakistan and has the considerable support of the USA and very importantly, the Pakistan army. Democracy in Pakistan can thrive only if the role of the army is diminished. Having said this, the elections remain significant turning point for Pakistan, giving an enormous collective mandate to the two parties that have pledged to establish the rule of the people in Pakistan. It remains to see how faithful they shall be to this pledge and how they will counter the army’s ulterior motives.
[image courtesy: http://flickr.com/photos/opendemocracy/2053072394/sizes/o/]